Fringe Box



Letter: I Have Further Questions For Cllr Rooth

Published on: 2 Nov, 2017
Updated on: 2 Nov, 2017

From Peter Shaw

I would like to thank Cllr Rooth for his response: GBC Has Led the Way in Planning For the Right Type of Housing. I do have a few follow up questions though:

[Peter Shaw’s questions are shown in bold, Cllr Tony Rooth’s responses in italics.]

Why were stipulations for the types of housing only applied to ‘affordable’ housing?

The draft Local Plan stipulates the size and mix of market homes as well as affordable. The balance of new affordable homes required is assessed as 40% one bed, 30% 2 bed, 25% 3-bed and only 5% 4-bed homes. The size and mix of market homes are assessed as 10% 1-bed, 30% 2-bed, 40% 3-bed and 20% 4-bed. The separate figures reflect the differing needs in the respective sectors of housing.

Why did the Executive not decide to apply these required percentages on all housing within a development?

The separate figures reflect the different assessed needs of the affordable and market sectors and the reality of housing development. Developers require a housing site both to meet the needs of prospective house buyers and provide a financial return. Generally, the profit margin for market homes increases in line with size. A larger profit margin on larger market homes enables developers to build the different mix of smaller affordable homes, otherwise, they are likely to refrain from building at all.

Why was the percentage of affordable houses provided by developers only set at 40% in the plan, why not higher?

The 40% threshold for affordable homes is higher than many other councils and reflects the reality of providing housing. The Local Plan has been tested for development viability and assessments show that 40% is a sensible level of affordable housing provision, at which developers can still make the profit necessary to proceed with a development.

What provisions in the plan or council policies is there to ensure developers build the level of affordable housing they say they will build?

As per national policy, developers have to provide the percentage of affordable housing required by the Local Plan, unless they can prove that this makes the site unviable. If they wish to make this argument, they have to fund an independent assessment of viability. They cannot count having overpaid for land as a reason for non-viability. The government is currently consulting on a standardised method of assessing development viability.

How likely is it that GBC will legally enforce planning 106 agreements or their equivalent?

It is not just likely, it is certain.

Why hasn’t GBC tried to enforce current 106 agreements it has with the university and hand Hazel Farm to the community for social/affordable housing?

The Section 106 agreement states that the university will vacate the existing student accommodation at Hazel Farm on completion of 2,500 units at Manor Park. It is understood that 1,850 units have been built at Manor Park to date. Since the Section 106 agreement was signed in May 2004 the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Areas (SPA) have been established (in 2005) and this site falls within 400m of the SPA. General residential development cannot now take place at Hazel Farm. In light of this, it is likely that the university will need to apply for a deed of variation to the Section 106.

In the last 2003 Plan the university was required to house 60% of students on campus but this stipulation was later removed, why? It would have helped free up suitable housing where it is needed.

Policy U1 of the 2003 Local Plan does not reference the percentage of students living on campus (for information the policy is no longer in force as it was not ‘saved’ by the Secretary of State in 2007). However, the inspector’s report into the 2003 Local Plan states that there will be a need to increase student residential accommodation, with the aim of returning the proportion resident to about 60%. This approach is also reflected in the subsequent Manor Park UoS Development Brief 2003, prepared jointly by GBC and UoS which states: “The university wishes to grow from current levels… of whom it is planned that about 60% will be resident on campus.” This approach is reflected within policy H1 of the draft Local Plan.

Why doesn’t the council set a cap on houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs) like other university towns

Given a growing older population, the ability to retain young people in an area can help give a more balanced demographic profile as well as supporting the local workforce and economy. We recognise the need for HMOs due to the shortage of housing and high house prices. Whilst within the town there is a demand from students there is also a demand from young professionals and key and low paid workers. Houses in multiple occupation provide a more affordable type of accommodation for many young people who are otherwise unable to afford to live in the town.

Planning permission is not always needed for a house in multiple occupation; permitted development rights allow a change of use of a house occupied by a single household or family to a house in multiple occupation for up to six people. Within the draft Local Plan, we have proposed a policy approach that supports applications (for HMOs for over six people) where the mix of houses and the local character will not be adversely affected, and where there is sufficient amenity space available. The council has also established an HMO stakeholders’ group to raise the standards and management of HMOs, and to reduce the impact on areas with high levels of HMOs.

As a result, we have introduced a landlord accreditation scheme which promotes higher property and management standards by providing training to landlords and agents on their responsibilities. Recent changes introduced in the Housing and Planning Act 2016 will also help to raise standards through additional enforcement powers which include charging financial penalties for non-compliance.

What is the name of this housing company?

North Downs Housing Limited.

Who are the directors of this housing company set up by GBC?

Sarah Creedy, former lead councillor for housing

Gordon Jackson, current councillor

Sue Reekie, former council financial officer

Steve White, Deputy Managing Director

Do the directors get paid and if so by whom? GBC? Investors? Chinese Investors who have recently signed a partnership agreement…?

Directors are unpaid.

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Responses to Letter: I Have Further Questions For Cllr Rooth

  1. Lisa Wright Reply

    November 4, 2017 at 10:42 am

    According to the Homebuilders Federation, newsletter dated, 10 October 2017,
    “It would always be possible to demonstrate that a site was unviable”

    So, any hope of Cllr Rooth or GBC hoping for a flood of affordable housing in Guildford is sadly misinformed regardless of any policy they may wish to produce.

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